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BGMicro Cold Cathode
Review by Harry Lam on 08.20.2002
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Introduction:

 

While shopping for some miscellaneous parts online at BGMicro (Think Radioshack or AllElectronics), I noticed that they carry a nice selection of Cold Cathode lamps.  Being quite inexpensive (at $7.99 for 300mm cold cathodes and inverters, $6.74 for 100 mm cold cathodes and inverters), my impulse to splurge kicked in and I decided to buy a few and play around with them for my case.  Despite all of the equipment that I bought ($100+ worth), my shipping was relatively minimal at a price of $6 (which is the flat rate for packages under 4 pounds).  The cold cathodes at BGMicro are product numbers LIT1018 - LIT1029, and the inverters are LIT1110 and LIT1120 (for 300mm and 100mm respectively).  Okay, enough of my incoherent rambling, and on with the pretty pictures!

 

The Fun Part:

 

The package from BGMicro was packed extremely carefully as there was an army of packing peanuts to greet me when I opened up the box, and the cold cathodes were wrapped in foam inside one of those cardboard tubes for posters.  In addition, each cold cathode was inside a plastic sheath.  I've heard horror stories of cold cathodes tubes being broken during shipping, and I can confidently say that the chances of a cold cathode from BGMicro being broken are next to nothing.

 

Not much to see =P

Lazy People Beware: Getting a cold cathode and inverter from BGMicro requires a small bit of work on your part, as this is not a kit, but rather one of those "do it yourself" projects.  The inverter does not come with a Molex adapter nor does it come with a power switch (although both of those can be easily added with a soldering iron).  In addition, the inverter is completely exposed, so you're going to have to either heatshrink it yourself or find a convenient place to mount it where it won't ground with your case (a friend of mine had a space above his PCI slots on his Lian Li case, and was able to mount it with those brass mobo standoffs, it fit perfectly with pre-made holes).

 

Installation of the cold cathode was quite easy, as there's a slight shelf behind a support bar where you can easily wire tie the cold cathode securely into place.  I personally had problems figuring out how to mount the inverter for the cold cathode, and finally decided on putting it into the box that it came packaged in and then wire tying/taping it down to the support beam in my case.  Yeah, a tad bit ghetto, but it works.

Green goodness

Green light bleeding out the back

Look at that ghetto wiring

Even gives a slight glow in the light

 

This cold cathode tube is extremely thin (3 mm in diameter), and can be placed virtually anywhere in your case.  A word of warning: do not stare directly at the cold cathode light (especially the blue one), it's quite blinding.  After handling and playing around with the tubes for a while I can confidently conclude that these cold cathode bulbs and inverters were really well made, and didn't feel cheap or flimsy at all (unlike certain neons).  I was really impressed by the affects of this cold cathode on the aesthetics of my case, as that eerie green glow illuminates the inside of my case very nicely, and creates a very cool looking effect on the back of my case.

Pricing Comparison:

BGMicro FrozenCPU UmaxPC CaseETC
300mm (11.81") + Inverter = $15.98 12" Cold Cathode Kit = $20.00 10" Cold Cathode Kit = $29.00 12" Premade Cold Cathode = $34.99
100mm (3.937") + Inverter = $13.48 4" Cold Cathode Kit = $20.00    
300mm UV Cold Cathode w/ Inverter = $20.98 15" UV Neon = $36.00 10" UV Cold Cathode Kit = $29.00 12" Premade UV Cold Cathode = $43.99
100mm UV Cold Cathode w/ Inverter = $16.03      

 

Conclusion:

 

For an impulse purchase, I'm extremely satisfied by this cold cathode light.  Sure you could buy a kit from somewhere else and get the fancy pre-modded cold cathode light in a acrylic tube, with a heat shrinked inverter, and a power switch to boot, but you can probably make/buy all of those on your own for cheaper (and besides it's always fun playing with a soldering iron and a heat gun!).

Pros:

  • Extremely Inexpensive
  • Extremely Bright
  • Cool effects on your case =)

Cons:

  • You need do everything yourself (that means you have to figure out a way to connect it to your PSU, mount/shrinkwrap the inverter, and figure out a way to mount the tube) but that's where the fun is!

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